In recent years, plenty of debate has emerged around the generational divide between age groups in the workforce and the nuances of how those gaps affect crucial aspects of business, like productivity and teamwork. While the jury is still out on some points of the discussion, a few things are becoming increasingly clear: both the workplace and the people who are a part of it are changing.
Adanma Akujieze, Vice President of Finance for Larson Design Group (LDG), recently took part in “Generational Leadership,” a Local Leaders Summit held by Leadership Lycoming as an opportunity to discuss the multi-generational workforce. She was joined by representatives from STEP Inc., PMF Industries and Hope Enterprises who wanted to help attendees better understand the challenges of collaborating between age groups in the workplace.
The summit clarified the distinctions between the age groups that often are given the “millennial,” or Generation Y, label – some apply it to broadly to “young” workers like recent college graduates or anyone under the age of 30, but it’s generally accepted that Generation Y are those born between 1981 and 1996. They’re also not the only age group in today’s workforce; in addition to the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), there’s Xennials (born 1977-1983), a subgroup of Generation Y, and Generation Z (born 1997-2010).
Each group has their faults, but they also possess unique skills – Baby Boomers are considered good team players and leaders, for example, while Xennials think abstractly to find new solutions and Generation Z is the most tech-savvy. The summit identified the strengths and weaknesses of age groups and shared approaches to better working relationships between them, but Akujieze said that it also aimed to address misconceptions about millennials.
“We’re not 18-year-old kids,” she said. “We’re young, but we have children and homes and professional lives. We have a vested interest in the future. We’re hard workers and respect authority. There’s a lot that younger generations get a bad reputation for, but there’s also a lot that we bring to the table that others don’t.”
For example, younger generations feel more comfortable “jumping right into work” and learning on their own, thanks to an abundance of information – from Google searches to webinars to YouTube tutorials – and instant accessibility. This has made them “self-appointed accountability drivers,” Akujieze said, holding everyone to a high standard for things like subject matter expertise and quality of work.
That extends to bosses and supervisors, which can result in friction between older and younger generations – and the belief that millennials aren’t as respectful of authority as those who came before them. However, Akujieze believes that younger generations are very much “a values-based culture,” appreciating qualities like accountability, motivation and mutual respect.
Overall, the summit was well-received by the audience, who Akujieze said was “highly engaged,” with “lots of agreement” and questions about workplace productivity and interactions “that went deeper than just the ‘age’ aspect.” That was something she was pleased to hear.
“It should never be about age, it should be about culture,” she said. “It’s why LDG builds our culture around values that can be embraced by everyone.”
Founded in 1993, Larson Design Group is an emerging national architecture, engineering and survey firm with 10 offices in four states and a vision to elevate client relationships, enrich the careers and lives of its employee-owners, and enhance the communities in which it operates. LDG promotes stewardship in their communities as one of its core values, and each year provides stewardship time that employees can use for activities meant to improve and engage with the places in which they live and work. For more information, visit www.larsondesigngroup.com.